Is it conservative to support local school improvements? E-mail
Opinion
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 15:57

By EARL WATT

Leader & Times

Because there have been some abuses of the use of education to push a political agenda, education has become a target between those who lean conservative and those who lean liberal.

As a conservative, I do not believe the classroom is the place to indoctrinate students with political views but to present both sides fairly, and students will make their own decisions on whether or not they are conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat.

While I have challenged the district over policy, curriculum and a vast number of educational issues, I have been supportive of the upcoming bond.

A good friend of mine recently asked me about this, thinking that perhaps I was moving away from my conservative leanings.

Absolutely not.

The Republican platform states, “Maintaining American preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential.”

When I look at the buildings being used to educate children in Liberal and balance that with the conservative platform, I have to ask a couple of questions.

Do we have a world class system of facilities here?

Are we maintaining high standards in our facilities in which all students can reach their potential?

We can and will continue the debate instruction, curriculum and programs, but what is at issue here are the buildings themselves.

Simply put, our buildings do not live up to the conservative standard of excellence.

To start, we have 38 trailer house classrooms in Liberal. They are unsafe, expensive to operate, inefficient and were a waste of taxpayer’s money the moment they were purchased.

The Republican platform also says, “Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity.”

When our students enter a trailer house to learn, what values and cultural identity are we sending to them? Is that who we strive to be?

Are we sending the message that our community is strong, proud and will be here for centuries to come, or are we telling them we don’t care about American Exceptionalism and we aren’t going to build real schools? What does it say about us when we tell the next generation that we have no ethical or moral obligation to provide an education?

I can tell you this, that is not the conservative viewpoint.

Many of our founding fathers were older and did not have children in the system, but they understood that the future of America depended on excellence in education. They knew that democracy depends on an educated population, and they provided financial support as a lesson to us of what it takes to be American. Freedom isn’t free.

Conservatives understand that education is the pathway to success. Conservatives believe that by putting an education to work a person from any walk of life can achieve anything.

Benjamin Franklin said there should be “A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district — all studied and appreciated as they merit — are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.”

Thomas Jefferson, the founding father most committed to state’s rights, said in his 1806 State of the Union Address that funding public education was so important that there should be a Constitutional amendment.

He didn’t get it, but he did found the public University of Virginia.

I am a child of this community, and I reflect the values I learned in my neighborhoods and classrooms. We care about each other here, not because it is a law, but because we are compassionate people with high expectations.

Is it conservative to believe we have an obligation to education, just as our founders and our national platform says we should?

Of course it is.

What makes this proposal even more conservative is its frugal use of local tax dollars. Of the $127 million requested, local property owners only have to fund $36 million with the state and a half-cent sales tax taking care of $91 million.

I support this plan because it is the conservative plan, it sends the right message to our youth and to ourselves that we have an ethical and moral obligation to educational facilities. It also provides a more efficient system than we have now, it addresses overcrowding and trailer house classrooms and is the proper plan for a growing community.

And it is the lowest cost we will ever get. You can’t get any more conservative than that.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press.

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